5 Key Trends Facing Associations, According to SmithBucklin

By Sara Delgado, January 30, 2018

Association management firm SmithBucklin sees 20 key issues that will shape associations this year.  From understanding the largest segment of the workforce—millennials—to preparing your events for doomsday-like circumstances, we’ve narrowed that list, seen in the company’s 15th edition of “Circuit,” to five noteworthy insights.

The What Versus the Why

“Learning,” as opposed to “training,” is a more effective strategy for associations trying to adopt a new methodology, the report finds. Britt Andreatta, Ph.D., says learning is designed to help recipients absorb and retain information. Training, on the other hand, tends to be designed one-size-fits-all. When members are taught through learning, they perceive themselves invested as part of the lesson and are more likely to be inspired to purse further education. When a trainee finishes a session, their cognitive capabilities “turn off” as soon as the training has stopped.

New Ways to Generate Revenue

For the first time in 10 years, non-dues revenue tops Mckinley Advisors “Economic Impact on Associations” annual report. This top-of-mind issue facing associations “may seem daunting, but at its core it is about providing value to members and finding ways to monetize those offerings,” says Tom Myers, vice president of sales services at SmithBucklin. Ideas like condensed “spurts” of learning on trade show floors, thoughtful sponsored content and funding members’ research grants can propel an association’s mission to offer greater value to members and increase its bottom line.

Millennials Are Not So Different After All

Millennials are still often labeled as “compulsive job-hoppers,” “lazy” and “needy.” Collette Huzinec, chief human resources officer at SmithBucklin, argues otherwise. “Many people like to focus on how millennials are different from generations but focusing instead on the similarities between generations will help associations build powerful relationships with their millennial members,” Huzinec says. Millennials actively seek out meaningful, fulfilling work—a quality that workers of all ages should appreciate.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

One of the biggest issues plaguing large associations and planners today is how to be prepared for the worst and respond to sudden emergencies. Prioritizing the need for contingency plans in the face of manmade or natural disasters is highlighted in two cases: The International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics’ conference two days before the Boston Marathon bombing and the Regional Airline Association’s measures before Hurricane Irma hit West Palm Beach, Florida. Knowing all of the variables ahead of time gives attendees confidence before a big event and cuts down on reaction time should emergency plans become activated.

The Power of Fact-Based Advocacy

In the era of fake news and alternative facts, associations are crafting their messages as carefully and as tediously more than ever. Michael Payne, head of SmithBucklin’s government relations team, says fact-based arguments as the key to making an association’s voice to stand out. He recommends four tried-and-true tactics: being incisive, using impartial research, always telling the truth and being kind.

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